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Hands off our cops!

Written by Seshnee Govender

Safety & Security

"The time has come for communities to say 'hands off our cops'..." - National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele.

With more and more police officers losing their lives in the line of duty, police are looking to communities to help put an end to police killings.

At least 56 police officers were killed during the first seven months of 2011. Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa described the deaths as a crisis.

In an effort to address the problem, police recently held a summit on police killings. Community policing forums, business, civic organisations, media, research and academic institutions, as well as other interested parties came together to share their expertise and help government tackle the issue.

Adopt -a-Cop

Based on suggestions that arose from the summit, the Police Ministry put together a programme of action.

As part of the programme, police plan to launch the Adopt-a-Cop campaign. The aim of the campaign is to change the behaviour of people towards police officers by encouraging them to see police officers as part of their families.

Police Ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi said the campaign would raise awareness about police killings. “When people watch the news and see that another cop has been killed we don’t want them to think of it as just another statistic. People need to care and get involved. If they believe there is a criminal at a certain house, they must report that to police,” Mnisi said.

Mobilise communities

Another aspect of the programme of action will be the hosting of provincial summits to mobilise communities across the country. “Police can never deal with crime alone. They need the help of communities and of all South Africans,” Mnisi added. He pointed out that community involvement was very important in fighting crime. In the past, many communities have already shown their support and made a difference by passing on information to police and by helping to track down police killers.

The provincial summits will discuss how all the relevant parties can help put an end to the killing of police in that particular province.

Heavier sentences

Other aspects of the programme include improving police training; establishing a committee to investigate the killings; giving more support to the families and friends of police officers who are killed; and flying national flags at half-mast at all police stations whenever a police officer is killed.

The Minister also called for harsher sentences to be handed down to those guilty of killing police.

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